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Ask the Experts: How to engage with your community right now

Every crisis is a catalyst for change and I’ve been heartened by our community’s capacity for compassion, understanding and sacrifice as we’ve navigated the difficulties of the past 12 months. 

Amongst the uncertainty, some positives have emerged; kindness, a desire to help others, and new ways of meaningful connection. Retailers have a part to play in facilitating these things, both now and well into the future. They can connect their communities, offer insight and share support across all channels virtually and bring these elements into their face-to-face dealings once stores reopen in April. 



A time for collaboration and sharing, as well as an opportunity to connect with your audience like never before:

  • Ensure you are maintaining relationships through social media and your website. Ask them what they need right now and create content in-line with that. 

  • Think about how can you connect your customers with each other, helping them help each other? This could be through a Facebook group, sharing of links or simply starting discussions across your networks and inviting your audience to get involved. 

  • Can you link with other retailers, charities or suppliers to promote each other and share stories with customers?


Developing a wide range of service options is critical, both for now and in the future.

  • Click and collect, plus local home delivery will still be important post lockdown

  • Develop individual and bespoke customer experiences and offer curated product stories that make people feel special and understood. 

  • Live stream shopping events from your store to showcase your brand and product, develop curated assortments and let your sales team connect directly with customers. This is key to building meaningful relationships and will likely result in long-term brand loyalty. 

  • Ask your customers what they like or would like to see in your range so they feel part of the brand and its journey.

Added Value

How else can you add value for your customers? Create content to highlight your brand personality and USPs and encourage your audience to share these with their own audiences.

  • Offer styling tips or ‘how to’ tutorials using your products

  • Collaborate with designers, makers and suppliers to share the story and background of your product

  • Create a newsletter and grow your email list, this could include local stories, general things you have found interesting along with brand-specific content, initial discounts or early access to product releases. 

  • Tell your brand story and share experiences, connecting on a personal level. Show them the team behind the brand so they feel they are connecting with people just like them. 

  • Share your processes with your audience; how you design and dress a window, how you curate product stories, how you merchandise your store. You can also use this as an opportunity to see what it is your audience wants to see from you next. 

The only certainty after this unusual year is that no one will operate, or even shop, in the same way upon stores reopening. The challenge for retailers now is to be creative with how you communicate with your customers and shape them into a truly connected community. 

Kindness, collaboration and sharing are the secrets to success.


This article was adapted from a piece written by Visual Merchandising Specialist, Kat Maclennan for our sister show, Top Drawer. If you would like to connect with Kat or find out more about her consultancy work, please get in touch: | @Kat_Maclennan


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